When the Los Angeles Angels acquired right-handed starter Dylan Bundy from the Baltimore Orioles over the winter, they did so with the hope that they could coach him up. Bundy, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft, had settled into a disappointingly mediocre existence. In three full seasons as a starter with the O's, he averaged a touch under 30 starts per pop to go with a 4.83 ERA (92 ERA+) and a 3.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was, essentially, a league-average starter.
It's too early to know how Bundy's career with the Angels will play out -- he's scheduled to be a free agent after the 2021 season -- but it's off to a good start. In two outings to date, he's tossed 12 ⅔ innings and held opponents to four runs on seven hits and two walks. He's struck out 15 of the 48 batters he's faced, and he has done so while demonstrating a new pitch mix.
Whenever a pitcher changes teams, one of the first things to check out is if and how they alter their pitch selection. In Bundy's case, he's taken to throwing his slider as his primary offering. It's a sensible decision based on the eye test and based on historical data. His slider is a low-80s with good depth. It has consistently been his best bat-misser, and it is the pitch that the opposition has had the toughest time squaring up for hits:
Fastball BAA (Whiff%)
Slider BAA (Whiff%)
Changeup BAA (Whiff%)
Throwing your best pitch more frequently is not the most creative approach to improving, but it's often an effective one. Bundy is throwing his slider a third of the time this season, as opposed to 22.8 percent last season. He's been particularly aggressive with the pitch once he gets ahead of right-handed hitters, throwing it more than 60 percent of the time; last season, for reference, he didn't throw it so much as half the time in the same set of circumstances.
There's no sense making too much out of two starts, so we'll just note that Bundy has seen his average exit velocity-against drop by nearly 2 mph while both his strike and his whiff rates have improved. Those three developments in concert tend to lead to better surface-level results. That has been the case for Bundy so far, although again, it's too early to know how long it'll last.
At some point, the league will ostensibly adjust to Bundy and his new slider-heavier approach. How he counters from there will dictate his long-term success. For now, though, it appears that he's found a recipe that works for him.